Monday, December 17, 2012

Piranhas vs. Ice Bears

I've felt somewhat burned out by hockey in the past few weeks, which is why I have not written lately. Priorities have also just made it take a back seat.

I've taken a little bit bigger of a role in terms of leadership on the Piranhas lately. It has helped me develop a lot of confidence in myself, knowing that others have confidence in me as well. They may not have confidence in my game, or organization, or influence in the locker room, but I really haven't heard anyone complain about it - which means I'm doing at least one of those things right.

Tonight I got to act as captain. Kind of an interesting way about doing things. I've always noticed that my favorite leaders (including other things but hockey) have always just taken charge. They've said "We're going to do X," and go with it. I actively tried to do this. The clearest case was during a penalty kill, when the lines were out of order because of odd numbers, and then we temporarily lost a player to replace their contact lens. I set up the next line (which included me). I then specifically assigned the task to a forward not going out to set up the line for the shift after. My thought process is that some of those guys may be more tired than the others, the player may return, etc.  It worked well. We didn't have any scramblings on the bench, missed shifts, or too many men penalties - which is a success in my book.

Onto the game. We were playing the Ice Bears. The Coyotes played them last week, and lost in overtime. I took it hard as I felt it was my fault that we lost. I made four big bone head plays that resulted in goals against, and I didn't contribute at all on offense. This set me up to be extra motivated this game.I know the Piranhas were much more talented than their team, but I still feel the need to play hard.

My first shift was ok.  We spent the entire shift in their zone. All three forwards worked well to keep possession of the puck and keep it away from the opponents. We moved the puck. We took good shots. We were moving in the right areas - it is a good thing. We came off the ice, and I was tired. Second shift was more of the same, but we were setting up in a better triangle, which meant more shots. I was set up in the slot, stick on the ice. The center whipped it towards me, but it got caught up in a defensemen's skates. I was able to pick it clean and get a shot off. I fell to my knees, and the rebound came right back about four feet from me. I was able to reach on my backhand from my knees and slid it through the goalie's legs as he was still on the ice. It wasn't ALL luck, as I knew his leg pads were open based on the angle of his leg on the ice. It gave us a 1-0 lead.

From there, I took a lot of beatings. At one point I was off balance, and caught a stick in my back, which got called as a cross check. I knew it was probably accidental, as I've never seen this team play dirty, but the way it felt was curious to me. I made sure I knew who did it, just to make a mental note. I played against him multiple times, and nothing happened as I would expect. I'm not the type of guy to go after someone.

Part of my beatings were me fighting to tie up their best player. A classic example was towards the middle of the third. Again, their best player was breaking out of their zone. I knew that there were defense men behind me who could handle him, but I elected to try and stop him myself. He embarrassed me the week before, and I'm not going to give him the chance to do that again. Any time he skated towards me, I would tie up his stick. He would skate near me, and I'd force him to make a move. If he got too close, I went in close to just try and tie him up. He knocked me over most times, but he also lost control of the puck. My favorite happened when I was covering for the d-man. He came in on me on a one on one, right down the middle. I kept my arms in, making him unaware of how far I can or cannot reach. He never made a move, so I just stopped and let him skate into me. I tried to start going forward, kept my stick on the ice on the side of his stick, and I was able to stop him. He did get a shot off, but our goalie saw it from a good distance, and it wasn't a good shot. The goalie was able to absorb it without any threat from him. I was very happy about it.

The Piranhas would win 9-1. I couldn't have been happier for the team. Our goalie played well, we moved the puck, everyone was laughing and having fun. I felt I played solid. I didn't get a lot of scoring chances, but I made some smart plays. I definitely worked hard in the corners and on the wall. I took bumps and bruises, and because of that, I can be pleased with my effort.

The Coyotes had a game the next day, but I decided to sit it out on the day of for personal reasons. I'm already exhausted and sore. I've got a flight tomorrow for a trip I still need to prepare for, and playing another game and tiring myself out doesn't seem like a smart idea. The next game I play in will be the Piranhas vs. The Coyotes. I'm really looking forward to it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Piranhas (3-2) vs. Mastodons

I hit the ice, and I really liked how tight I could turn. I just got my skates sharpened and they felt really good. I went to do my full strides from red line to the goal line, and I felt slow as heck though. I guess it is a side effect of having skates that were so sharp.

The Mastodons are a team that come ready to play every game. It doesn't matter how much talent you have, if you don't play hard, you're not going to have a good game. What was strange though was that this was the worst I've seen them play. Nearly every chance they could, they dumped the puck. They had very little possession of the puck this game.

For me, this was one of those games where I felt that I did a lot right, and had my hand in lot of goals, despite not getting a point on the play. I would make a good play to pressure the puck carrier, keep a puck in our zone, or screen the goalie.

I did have one goal on the rebound of a rush. The center shot from the left side, and pulled the goalie way over to him. The rebound came to me, and I just had to tap it in. There was no pressure, and very little could go wrong. Very rarely do I miss an empty net from three feet out. I also had an assist at some point during the night for a two point night, but I don't remember how I got it.

In the offensive zone, I did a very good job in terms of cycling the puck, and keeping possession.  A lot of times, I didn't even look for a shot, or the other forward. I would just look to keep it deep in the zone, and go to the next position to make myself open for a pass. I also made adjustments in game, which takes me a while to do. The most obvious case was when I was entering the zone carrying the puck. I hear the center say he's got the drop pass for me, but I ignore it and shoot anyway. We gave away possession. The next period, the same play was happening. Only this time, I was able to drop the pass for him. I crashed the net, and the third forward was able to hammer home the rebound.

There was also one pass I made at the end of the third that was outstanding. I was trailing the puck carrier, just like he did to me in my previous example. I picked it up, and took my time. I could get a shot off that may get to the net, skate it in, or give it to the 3rd forward  who was breaking in with his stick on the ice. I hit the third forward with a great pass on his tape. He fired it and had a great scoring chance. He later said he didn't expect the pass.

The two things that didn't go well for me was my skating. Like I stated earlier, I was just slow. It felt like a month since my last game despite it being only five(ish) days. The other was my defense. Why would I chase a guy with my stick fully extended. I need to bring it back in, keep my balance, and keep moving my feet to keep up with him.

In the middle of the third, I also had one fore checking opportunity where I was all over the ice, raising hell for the opposition. I'd chase the puck,  and follow their pass, interrupt their defense man moving the puck, battle for it, and then just repeat multiple times. I got a little tired and sloppy after a few cycles of this though.

Overall I thought the game was above average for me, but not by much. Skating is a big part of my game, and it wasn't there.

The Piranhas would beat the Mastodons  7-3.